Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summarizing The Schultz Situation

If you're as interested in the technical, contractual side of hockey as I am, it's not uncommon to become a little exasperated in exploring some of the minutia surrounding the NHL's CBA. Justin Schultz's situation presents one such case where reading the relevant sections of the CBA doesn't fully explain Schultz's impending UFA status. There seems to be an understanding as to why Anaheim loses Schultz's rights, but it's less clear exactly why he avoids draft re-entry only to become a UFA on July 1st. I'll try to provide an overview of the issues involved, and if I'm missing some, feel free to help me flesh this out in the comments.

First of all, specifically, why does Anaheim lose Schultz's rights? As has been covered elsewhere, Anaheim has (or had), Schultz's rights until he either graduates from college, or if he leaves school early, until the fourth June 1st following his draft. To be specific, Article 8.6.c.iv states:

If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19, who had received a Bona Fide Offer in accordance with Section 8.6(a)(ii) above, becomes a bona fide college student prior to the second June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft and does not remain a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain exclusive rights for the negotiation of his services until the fourth June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft.
This is a pretty straightforward section to interpret, and explains why the Ducks would lose the rights to Schultz. However, it does not do a good job of clarifying where the reported 30 day window comes from. Within article 8, Article 8.6.d, there is a section that talks about "bona fide offers", and how they remain in effect for a 30 day period. There is nothing specific that seems to mention why Anaheim has a 30 day window to sign Schultz at this point, but some light may have been shed upon that by the excellent interview Jason Gregor conducted on June 7th, with the former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brian Lawton. Lawton touched on the 30 day window, suggesting that it came into effect post-lockout after Don Waddell, then GM of the Atlanta Thrashers, was incensed that he might lose Jim Slater to UFA without a chance to sign him. Does that mean there is some agreement written that isn't included as part of the CBA, which would explain this 30 day window? Perhaps.

Secondly, a quick reading of the "Eligibility for Claim" section suggests Schultz might well be draft eligible, depending on the date he left college. The eligibility exceptions are listed in Article 8.4 of the CBA :

8.4 Eligibility for Claim.

(a) All Players age 18 or older are eligible for claim in the Entry Draft, except:

(i) a Player on the Reserve List of a Club, other than as a try-out;
(ii) a Player who has been claimed in two prior Entry Drafts;
(iii) a Player who previously played in the League and became a Free Agent pursuant to this Agreement;
(iv) a Player age 21 or older who: (A) has not been selected in a previous Entry Draft and (B) played hockey for at least one season in North America when he was age 18, 19, or 20 and shall be
eligible to enter the League as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article 10.1(d); and
(v) a Player age 22 or older who has not been selected in a previous Entry Draft and shall be eligible to enter the League as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article 10.1(d).

The only subsection that seems like it would, or could, apply to Schultz is (i), due to the aforementioned 30 day window. This uncertainty has led to the questions concerning his draft eligibility. According to Bob McKenzie's article from May 25th, it appears he left school somewhere between May 21st-25th. It is possible that he would be off the reserve list before the draft, but I find it hard to believe his agent wouldn't have specifically picked a date where he would avoid re-entering the 2012 draft.

Should a team spend a late round pick on Schultz in the hopes he's draft eligible? If the only fall-out is the loss of that selection, it's not hard to imagine a team deciding that's an acceptable risk and attempting to draft Schultz. If it turns out that he's still on ANA's reserve list, and there would be far more serious repercussions for trying to draft him, then maybe the reward isn't worth the risk? Again, I would imagine Schultz and his agent specifically picked the day they did to leave school so as to avoid draft re-entry, but it's hard to know given the lack of specific information available.

This is a long way to go to not find any answers, but here are the unanswered questions as I see them:

  1. Where does the 30 day window come from? League rules?
  2. When, exactly, did Schultz leave school? Is the timing of his defection from college the reason he avoids the 2012 draft? Why does Schultz not go back into the draft?

Are there any questions I've missed, any details that might help fill in the blanks with this situation? I expect we'll hear numerous rumors surrounding impending destinations for Schultz by the time June 25th arrives, but I'm not as sure we'll get a clear and concise explanation of exactly how we arrive there. It would be nice for this situation to be laid out neatly, but failing that I guess a reasonable guess is better than nothing...


ironsight said...

Great analysis Speeds, but I think you glossed over the answer to your own question. It seems to me that the 30-day window does arise from the bona fide offer provision in s8.6(d).

If Schultz declared he was leaving college in late May, then the Ducks would have had to almost immediately tender a bona fide offer to him in order to avoid losing his rights as an unsigned pick on June 1 pursuant to s 8.6(c)(iv). Under s 8.6(d), that offer has to remain open for acceptance by the player for a minimum of 30 days. Presumably as soon as the draft is complete, he will reject the offer, and Anaheim will no longer have any claim to his rights.

If the Ducks did not tender a bona fide offer to him, then he would be draft eligible under s 8.4. We have no way of knowing for sure whether he was tendered a bona fide offer, save for the talk of the “30-day window” by Custance and Mackenzie. If he was tendered the offer, then the Ducks have to keep it on the table for at least 30 days, and therefore he cannot re-enter the Entry Draft.

Once he rejects the offer, his rights will not be held by any team. However, pursuant to s50.8(d), a player cannot enter into a contract with a team who does not hold his rights beginning in the non-current league year. Therefore, he cannot sign anywhere as a UFA until July 1.

ironsight said...

Also, I think it may be questionable whether Schultz' rights can be traded at this point. Since the bona fide offer is the only thing tying Schultz to the Ducks and any prospective trade partner would not be privy to that contract offer, logically it doesn't seem as though his rights can actually be traded.

speeds said...

I considered that, and I suppose it's possible that is the case, but something about it just seems a bit off, for a couple reasons.

(1) How would the 30 day window have worked if Schultz had waited to leave school until after June 1st? Would ANA have had time to make a bona fide offer, or would he have instantly been off the reserve list before the Ducks could do anything about it? Would he just have gone back into the draft?

So what if he waited until the day after the draft, which was kind of what we thought might happen before hearing about this 30 day window*?

In this case, yes, they would have had time to tender a bona fide offer, which leads to...

(2) Why would Schultz put his fate in ANA's hands? What if the Ducks decided, since he's clearly not interested in signing with ANA, not to make a bona fide offer? Then he would have gone back into the draft, which (at least partially) defeats the point of what he's trying to do.

* I remember hearing about the 30 day window earlier with Wheeler, but at the time never heard exactly what was going on there. I can remember someone suggesting that it might have had something to do with the fact that Wheeler was drafted under the old CBA instead of the current CBA, and given no other explanation I kind of (erroneously, I think now) assumed that to be the case.